What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in people over 60-years old worldwide. It’s a condition that damages the optic nerve when the pressure inside your eye builds – similar to how high blood pressure can damage your organs. The optic nerve, located at the back of the eye, is responsible for sending images to your brain. If the condition is left undetected and untreated, it can cause permanent vision loss or total blindness within a few years.
What are glaucoma symptoms?
Symptoms of glaucoma can include severe headaches, eye pain, nausea, vomiting, blurry vision, halos around light, and eye redness. Symptoms tend to progress very slowly and can, in some cases, take decades to reveal themselves. Often there are no visible signs at the early stages of the disease.
Different types of glaucoma
There are two primary types of glaucoma: primary open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma (also referred to as closed-angle glaucoma and narrow-angle glaucoma).
Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma. It occurs over a more extended period with a slow deterioration of vision as the optic nerve takes damage through pressure that builds in the eye. Primary open-angle glaucoma generally occurs without any symptoms and can be insidious in nature. Only through routine and regular eye exams can a person ensure early detection and treatment.
Acute angle-closure glaucoma is much rarer and happens much quicker than open-angle glaucoma. It occurs when drainage canals get blocked meaning eye pressure rises quickly so the fluid in your eye can’t drain the way it should. This can happen when the iris is not as wide or open as it should be, and runs over the drainage canals – which can be a result of the pupils expanding too quickly. Angle-closure glaucoma attacks can occur when you enter a dark room, are excited or stressed, or if you take certain drugs. The attacks can happen within a matter of hours.
Symptoms can include:
- Eye pain
- Severe headache
- Nausea or vomiting
- Very blurry or hazy vision
- Seeing rainbows or halos around lights
- Redness in the white part of the eye
- Pupils of different sizes
- Sudden loss of sight
This is an eye emergency, and you should see an ophthalmologist right away if you experience these symptoms. Through a routine eye exam your eye doctor can detect if you are at risk of Acute angle-closure glaucoma.
What causes glaucoma?
Glaucomausually happens when fluid builds up in the front part of your eye and increases the pressure. Other causes can include a chemical injury to the eye, severe eye infection, blocked blood vessels, and inflammatory conditions.
The following can increase the chances of having glaucoma:
If you are of African American, Irish, Russian, Japanese, Hispanic, Inuit, or Scandinavian descent, you are more likely to develop the condition
- If you are over 40
- If your family has a history of glaucoma: the disease tends to run in families
- If you have poor vision
- If you have diabetes
- If you take certain steroid medications
- If you injure your eye
- If your corneas are thinner than usual
- If you have high blood pressure, heart disease, or sickle cell anemia
- If you have high eye pressure
- If you are nearsighted or farsighted
Can glaucoma be cured?
Despite being the leading cause of blindness in people over 60, glaucoma can often be prevented with early treatment. By lowering eye pressure with a treatment plan and regular eye exams, you can prevent your eyesight from deteriorating. Medications and diet can lower eye pressure and slow down the progression too. Surgery and laser treatment can also be an option to stop further vision loss. Lost vision cannot, however, be brought back, which makes early diagnosis the best way to prevent vision loss.
Book an eye exam
You can book an eye exam to test if you show symptoms of glaucoma at one of our offices in Brampton or Mississauga.